December 12, 2006

Shumlin wants to focus on climate, focuses on wind instead

To the editor, Rutland (Vt.) Herald:

Peter Shumlin seems confused ("Senate leader wants to focus on climate," Dec. 11). It is unclear if he wants to get rid of Vermont Yankee (or at least store its waste somewhere else) or combat climate change.

If he is ready to throw out aesthetics and sacrifice Vermont's mountains for industrial-scale wind energy, how can he complain about carbon-free Vermont Yankee?

He is also mistaken about technological progress in wind energy. The only progress has been that the turbines get bigger, making them more environmentally damaging, not less.

One wonders, too, about his sobriety in this matter when he warns of temperatures rising 30 degrees. Hopefully, it was a typo. The U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts a rise somewhere between 2 and 8 degrees Fahrenheit over the next 100 years.

I share Shumlin's concerns about both warming and nuclear power. An honest assessment of wind energy, however, reveals that it would not contribute even a small part towards solving either of these issues.

With sprawling wind turbine facilities, Shumlin would destroy the state in a gravely misinformed effort to save it. We need real solutions, not fashionable window dressing that will do much more harm than good.

tags: wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism, Vermont

December 11, 2006

Robber barons

Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan executives are getting year-end bonuses of $25 million each. That's on top of their already obscenely inflated salaries and perqs. That gives them each almost $70,000 extra to play with every day, which is more than twice the median annual income of 90% of American households.

anarchism, anarchosyndicalism

December 9, 2006

How the scam works

Driven by a concern for reducing carbon emissions, many governments around the world have signed on to the Kyoto Accord or otherwise established similar goals (such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in the northeastern United States).

Since the goal is overall reduction, one mechanism for achieving it is a "cap & trade" market, which has been successful is reducing other pollutants. Desired limits are established, and credits are earned by facilities that reduce their emissions proportionally to below that limit. Those credits may then be sold to entities that are unable (or don't want) to achieve the limit. Their extra emissions are allowed as they are equal to extra reductions by others.

Wind energy is promoted as a means of reducing emissions, but in fact wind energy facilities are being built to generate credits to allow continuing emissions, to avoid actual reductions.

The problem is that wind power generators are assigned credits even though no emissions are reduced. As an emissions-free energy source, their value would be in reducing emissions from other sources in the grid they are part of. Then those other facilities would earn credits for fewer emissions.

The wind turbines don't reduce emissions themselves, because they did not emit carbon dioxide or anything else in the first place. So if they are newly built, then it should be the entities that are able to reduce their emissions because of the use of wind energy that earn the credits.

If wind turbines were in fact responsible for such reductions, then they do deserve credit in some form, and that is an issue only for facilities not owned by the utilities hoping to benefit.

Wind energy advocates assert that since every kilowatt-hour of wind-generated electricity means one kilowatt-hour not generated by other sources (which include non-CO₂ hydro and nuclear), you might as well skip the middleman and give the wind companies the credits directly and provide a helpful incentive for investment.

Thus, if a grid's generation balance is 50% coal and 14% natural gas, for every kilowatt-hour generated the wind company would get credit equivalent to the carbon emissions of half a kilowatt-hour from coal and a seventh of a kilowatt-hour from natural gas.

It would earn those credits even if the burning of coal or natural gas is not in fact reduced. And it can sell its credits to the coal and natural gas plants so that they don't have to reduce their emissions.

The wind company will say, however, that by definition -- theirs -- the emissions from coal and natural gas plants are reduced by wind energy on the grid. Yet this has never been shown to in fact be the case.

That is not surprising. Since the grid must continuously maintain the balance between energy supply and demand, highly fluctuating and intermittent wind energy (its average production is one-fourth to one-third of its rated capacity, and it generates at or above that average rate only a third of the time) adds to the challenges of that task.

Because the wind does not always blow sufficiently -- let alone on demand -- no other sources can be removed. Even when the wind is blowing well it may drop at any time, so other sources have to be kept burning to be ready to kick into generation mode. The result is little, if any, reduction of fuel use by or emissions from other sources.

Wind energy promoters also ignore the fact that -- even if wind power worked as they believe it does -- only quick-responding peak suppliers, such as no-emission hydro and low-emission natural gas plants, would be affected. Base load supplied by coal would not be affected at all.

In short, if the goal is to reduce carbon emissions, the method should be to reward results, not promises. If wind works, prove it. As it is, building wind "farms" is like printing money.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism

December 6, 2006

Greenpeace et al. sucks up to power, bargains away environment

From Peace, Earth & Justice News:

Dani Rubin, secretary of B.C. Pathways, says the exclusionary process inflicted "collateral damage" on the entire B.C. environmental movement. "I remember Don McMillan of Interfor telling me that the industry had a plan for us [environmentalists]," he says. "It's pretty clear now that the corporate strategy was to divide the environmental movement by electing to negotiate only with the 'pragmatists,' leaving the rest of us out in the cold." ...

[In February 2006, Greenpeace, Sierra Club and other groups celebrated a historic agreement with government and industry to bring an end to the "war in the woods" in the Great Bear Rainforest area of coastal British Columbia. Less than a year later ... timber companies have ratcheted up the rate of clearcut logging to unprecedented levels, and guidelines for sustainable logging are not being implemented.]

The announcement of the final agreement set B.C.'s environmental community abuzz with debate over tactics and strategies in the Great Bear Rainforest. Clearly, Greenpeace has switched its focus from confrontation to cooperation, no doubt to stay in line with the changing priorities of a protest-weary public. Similarly, "finding solutions" and "building consensus" have become the catch phrases of foundations funding the large eco-groups in the U.S.

The evolution of Greenpeace from a rag-tag band of protestors to a multinational bureaucracy may explain its newfound commitment to collaboration with industry and government. Ingmar Lee, a journalist and old-growth forest activist from Vancouver Island, says the group has adopted the corporate model it once deplored.

"This is exactly what happens to forest protection activists who graduate from the frontlines into paid positions and begin working themselves up the ladder," Lee says. "Once they're into the $60,000-a-year bracket, they just quite simply cannot relate to anyone in the movement, but they can sure hobnob with the corporate logging executives. They begin to see how the 'real world' works, and they begin to understand that if they cooperate, they will start to get some of that power."

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism, anarchism, ecoanarchism

December 4, 2006

Goldman Sachs wants out of wind biz?

Goldman Sachs wants to sell Horizon Wind Energy, which it bought last year (then called Zilkha Renewable Energy). As the New York Post astutely notes today, Goldman Sachs is betting "that the market for renewable energy is nearing a top."

Of course, they are selling it as a good investment, but if that were the case, why are they letting it go after only a year? Perhaps they have come to perceive that large-scale wind energy is a dead end -- an overhyped technology that underdelivers -- and that the market for it is indeed facing a decline.

wind power, wind energy

December 1, 2006

A question about renewable energy

More and more governments are requiring utilities to use more and more renewable energy, sometimes even directing them to not use some (such as hydro) and instead use others (such as wind). The goal is to usually to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide.

Why, then, isn't that the requirement? With wind energy, for example, its variability and intermittency cuts into its ability to reduce emissions, since conventional plants have to keep working -- even when not producing electricity -- to balance it.

wind power, wind energy, environment, environmentalism

Reunion Power getting desperate in Cherry Valley

Vermont-based Reunion Power wants so badly to desecrate East Hill in Cherry Valley, N.Y., that it has now offered to give away its electricity to all of the residents.

Nevertheless, the town extended its moratorium on development for another 45 days to ensure that a final ordinance is in place before Reunion formally applies for its project.

In an effort to have its way against an ordinance that would protect the historical and rural character of the area, Reunion has increased its promised "payments in lieu of taxes," will pay $2,000/year to all neighbors of the project, and has now arranged to pay for all of the electricity (though not delivery, about half of the bill) used by an average household (that will encourage conservation!) for every residential customer.

The ordinance currently specifies setbacks of 1,200 feet from property lines and 2,000 feet from residences. Following New York State Department of Environmental Protection guidelines, the noise level is limited to 6 dB above ambient at the property line.

Despite overwhelming opposition to its project, Reunion Power apparently believes it has a right, even an obligation, to have its way.

wind power, wind energy, wind farms, Vermont